Today is the day after. I opted to stay home from work today to give myself extra recuperation time based on stories and advice from friends who sent me heartfelt messages of love and support, all with stories of their own. I’m glad I made this choice. I’ve spent my day on the couch doing a little bit of work but mostly browsing Facebook, chatting with dear friends who never shared their experiences publicly but want me to know they understand my pain…and blogging. I’m a writer. I need to get these feelings out on “paper.”
Today it’s raining. I’m alone at home, practicing self-care with coffee, gourmet chocolate-covered Oreos (a birthday gift from a friend), a heating pad, Morten Lauridsen, and Tylenol with Codeine. My back is killing me, probably from so many hours spent sitting in the same position in a hospital bed yesterday. I’m stiff and slow-moving.
Today I read a friend’s graphic story of her miscarriage at 16 weeks–the pink and lifeless baby at her bedside in the dark of midnight, sobbing with her husband, being told the scar tissue was too much and she’d never get pregnant again, heavy bleeding for a month, almost dying herself. Perhaps I shouldn’t have, but I did a Google image search for what a baby looks like at 16 weeks. I imagined my friend looking at that precious baby–and yes, it looks like a baby–lifeless in her hands. And I sobbed.
Today I did something I don’t recommend this soon after the loss of a child. I did another Google image search. I lost my baby at 8 weeks and I searched for what a baby looks like at 8 weeks. I wanted to see what it was I’d lost. What I’d had taken away from me. What I’d never had the chance to know or hold or kiss.
Today I sobbed…am sobbing.
Despite the early loss, it was still my child. As a Christian I have hope of seeing that child someday; perhaps an angel will place him/her in my arms–a perfect, beautiful, precious baby. Someday.
Today one of my best friends in the world met her beautiful baby boy. Tomorrow another of my best friends will meet her precious baby boy. Two other friends and a relative announced their pregnancies around the same time we did, and have due dates within weeks of ours. I’m thrilled for them. I’ve smiled at pictures and congratulated them. And I want to snuggle their babies. But I’ve also cried. That sweet baby in the photo is what mine should have grown to be. They get to hold their babies. They get to hug and kiss and rock their babies. Mine is dead. And while I know my experience is not unique–many thousands of women have been through something very similar to this–that doesn’t change the fact that right here, right now, something is missing in my life. Someone is missing. And that baby-shaped hole will never be filled no matter how many children I have.
When I was researching what having a miscarriage was like, one aspect that was blatantly missing was the stories. I couldn’t find the stories I wanted to read from women who had been through what I was experiencing. I wanted to know what to expect, what others had felt, and that it was going to be okay. I wanted to know I wasn’t alone.
Apparently miscarriage isn’t a topic many people talk about. Perhaps it’s because no one knew the child. Maybe it’s because it’s messy and no one wants to talk about the blood and guts and gory part of this horrendous experience. Maybe there aren’t very many people like me who want their deepest, darkest feelings aired in public for all to see. Vulnerability is never comfortable. And grief is as vulnerable as it gets. A friend of mine who has been through this three times said, “As parents we feel the need to protect our babies, no matter the age, and to lose them feels as though somehow we didn’t do our jobs well enough.” And perhaps that misplaced feeling of self-blame contributes to the lack of stories available to those of us experiencing this nightmare.
Regardless of the reason, the fact remains that I couldn’t find what I needed to get me through a very dark time. And that is why I’m blogging all of this. I hope that by putting my story out there, when another mother searches desperately for hope and help as she sits in a darkened room with her grief and piles of soggy tissues…she’ll find it here.
Another friend who has been where I am said, “It’s not easy, no matter where in pregnancy the baby was lost. It’s as real as any other death, except with other deaths, one can be grateful for knowing the person. Here, so much potential is lost, and you didn’t even get the chance to know who you’re mourning, and that’s part of what hurts so bad, too. The loss of a new future family to imagine, the loss of innocence, the loss of life you’ve created together.”
Her words brought me to tears because she’s absolutely right. Her words mirror what another friend said to me when I shared the news with her privately the day after. She said to me that it may feel like nothing now, it may feel strange to mourn a person I never knew, but the baby isn’t the only thing we’ve lost. We’ve lost all the dreams we had for a future as a family of five. That baby was part of our future that was unexpectedly and dramatically ripped from us. All the plans we’d made that would take place after November 23, 2014, included a newborn baby. Holiday travel. Maternity leave. Buying a second vehicle. None of that matters now. When we head out west for Christmas it will be just the four of us. There’s no longer urgency on procuring another vehicle or moving Miss Bennett in to share a room with Little Miss. Paying extra for the premium insurance plan this year turned out to be essentially pointless.
And we still have to tell Little Miss. At school she talks with her friends about how her mommy is having another baby. She makes comments to us about “when the new baby comes.” She’s excited about sharing a room with her little sister so the new baby can have the other bedroom. She’s already picked out names–one for a boy, and one for a girl–that we should call the new baby. And we have to tell her there is no new baby anymore. We have to explain to our 4-year-old what death is. I will cry. She will be sad. And we will all grieve together.
One thing I want to accomplish with these blog posts is legitimacy. I want any mother who reads these to understand that she is not alone, and that everything she’s feeling–grief, anger, jealousy, disappointment, even numbness–all of it is legitimate and normal. The physical road is different for everyone in this situation, but many of the emotions are similar. We can stand together and cry together because we understand each other. The loss is real, no matter when or how or why it happened, and there’s nothing anyone can do or say that can fix it.
Right now I can’t write the future of this story. I can’t predict how I’ll feel in a month, a year, a decade. So if you’re looking for the “it will all be okay” ending, I can say it because I believe it, but I can’t say it from experience. Just minutes ago I texted one of my best friends, “I am not okay.” Because today…I’m not. Today, my heart hurts. Today, I’ve done more than anyone’s fair share of crying. Today, I’m broken.
But today is not the end. Today is not all there is.
And I am not alone.